Sheldon Richman on Freedom and Equality


How can all men be created equal when some have more stuff than others? Sheldon Richman describes how liberty-minded people can appeal to those who put a high premium on equality. Historically, Richman writes, government's primary function has been to exploit the industrious–anyone who works and trades in the market–for the sake of the political class, which prefers collecting subsidies to earning wages or profits. These privileges take the form of tariffs, licenses, monopolies, land grants, [patents], and other subsidies. They enable favored interests to increase their incomes beyond what the market would provide, either by forcibly extracting wealth from producers or by barring them from competitively serving consumers. The name for this privilege-based system is mercantilism, and in many ways it lives on today even in market-oriented economies, which is why they are often called mixed economies. Champions of liberty have a constant challenge in finding fresh and compelling ways to teach their philosophy to people with different perspectives. Embracing equality of authority and opposing privilege is one way.